Commitment. Diligence. Integrity.

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Jun 28

RBR&S partners Chuck Baumberger and Alex Reboso recently obtained a jury verdict in the amount of $2.1 million on behalf of their client, a railroad conductor that suffered a stroke while at work.

Sammy Belcher, age 56, was a conductor working for CSX Railroad.   Mr. Belcher claimed that he began exhibiting signs and symptoms a stroke while at work in the Hamlet, North Carolina rail yard about the time he misaligned two switches causing the engines he was working on to derail.  Mr. Belcher, a diabetic, told his supervisors that he thought that his blood sugar had dropped and that he was confused.  Instead of sending him to a hospital emergency room, or obtaining medical attention, CSX kept him in the rail yard for 5 ½ hours to test him for alcohol and drugs.  Following the drug and alcohol tests, the railroad send him home to Greenwood, South Carolina in a company van, a trip of about 5 hours.  During the trip, his medical condition worsened and the Plaintiff suffered a stroke.
CSX denied that he had suffered a stroke at work and if so, there was nothing that could be done to prevent the ultimate outcome, which was a mild residual that prohibited him from going back to work as a conductor.  The defendant also contended that Mr. Belcher was comparatively negligent.  The plaintiff had suffered a previous stroke two years earlier, from which he had recovered and returned to work as a conductor. The railroad contended that while shopping on the day before the incident at the Hamlet yard, Mr. Belcher had signs and symptoms similar to those he had at the time of his first stroke, and that Mr. Belcher was comparatively negligent for failing to seek medical attention as he did not go to the emergency room despite being familiar with the signs and symptoms of an impending stroke, and that this negligence was the sole cause of his eventual second stroke. The railroad also presented testimony through three supervisors that during the time that Mr. Belcher was held in the Hamlet rail yard awaiting his drug and alcohol tests, he did not have anything wrong with him, he was not confused, and that he did not want to go to the doctor.  The supervisors’ testimony was contrary to that of Mr. Belcher’s engineer who testified that “something was wrong with my conductor,” and “that he needed to go to the hospital”.
The plaintiff claimed about $500,000 in lost wages and lost earning capacity. CSX claimed that Mr. Belcher still had the ability to perform work other than his railroad job.  No past or future medical bills were put into evidence.
Verdict for the plaintiff:  $501,338 for past lost wages and lost earning capacity; and $1,588,142 for his intangible damages. Total damages awarded was $2,089,480.   The jury also found the plaintiff 50% comparatively negligent.